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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bike commuting tips site turns 10

In 1997 I launched my not very creatively named Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips site. I don't exactly recall what month, but I'll claim May--National Bike Month--as the birth month of the site, modestly launched without venture capital, publicity, or fanfare. It was essentially a class exercise, with no great ambitions beyond the ability to say: "Hey Mom, I have a web site."

From my "About" page:

In the mid-1990s I was working at San Francisco State University, where, among other things, I had responsibility for maintaining a webpage for the College of Creative Arts. The university offered many web design workshops for faculty and staff, as well as technical assistance for basic web design. I was an eager participant, and began "hard-coding" HTML.

San Francisco State University also provided space on its server for individual employees and students, and encouraged us to create personal pages as a way to facilitate our understanding of the rapidly emerging cyberspace revolution. As I was taking my Internet workshops, maintaining my college's site, and considering my personal webpage, I wondered: "What could I offer that might be of interest to anyone?" (Read more.)
In the decade since, this modest site has attracted more than 400,000 unique visitors, many of whom have helped to improve the information by making suggestions and asking good questions. Visitor response was one motivation for creating this blog, as a complement to the bike commuting tips site.

Despite continued bicycling-discouraging sprawl development, a plague of SUV motoring, and seemingly interminable oil wars, I'd like to think we've made progress toward a more bicycling-friendly nation in the past 10 years. In San Francisco--the city I'm most familiar with, having been involved in advocacy with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) for more than 10 years--the progress is very evident:
- The SFBC has gone from fewer than 600 dues-paying members in 1997 to more than 6,000 today
- Valencia Street had a road diet treatment to create bike lanes, reduce accidents, and enhance pedestrian conditions
- Bike lanes and traffic calming have improved Market Street, Howard Street, Folsom Street, Arguello Boulevard, San Jose Avenue, and other streets too numerous to mention
- The city introduced the innovative "sharrow" and painted them on many streets
- The city's transit agency, MUNI, has bike racks on almost all coaches
- The Embarcadero BART Bikestation was launched, and soon the Warm Planet Bikes facility will open at Caltrain
- One block of Duboce Street was transformed into a car-free bikeway, with a landmark bicycling mural
- The blight of the Embarcadero Freeway is long gone--and not missed--and San Francisco has recovered its spectacular waterfront from AT&T Park to Crissy Field
- The lamentable Central Freeway was demolished and replaced with the community enhancing Octavia Boulevard
- Visitors to Golden Gate Park can now enjoy car-free space all weekend, and not only on Sundays
- Legislation was passed requiring secure valet bicycle parking at events like street fairs or outdoor concerts
I could go on, but the point is clear. San Francisco is a more bicycling-friendly community today than it was 10 years ago. We've been making progress nationally as well, with the emergence of organizations such as the Thunderhead Alliance (created 1997) and Bikes Belong (created 1996), the continued work of the League of American Bicyclists, and the leadership of key bike industry figures such as John Burke of Trek.

In the next few weeks I will present interviews with bicyclists in San Francisco and elsewhere, reflecting on progress made in the past decade to improve bicycling conditions, create complete streets, and promote more livable communities.

With rising fuel prices, increasing obesity and related health issues, growing concern with global climate change, and endless traffic congestion, the future is bright for bicycling as a transportation mode. As I've indicated on this blog, effective advocacy is the key. Advocacy worked in San Francisco, and it can work elsewhere.

What do you think? Is your community more bicycling-friendly today than it was a decade ago?

Image: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority
Visit: Anna Sojourner: The city on two wheels
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Yokota Fritz said...

That's wonderful, Paul. Congrats on your part on those achievements.

I had to leave before it came to fruition, but I helped out with these Safe Routes to School projects in Longmont, Colorado.

Anonymous said...

Ten more years!
Ten more years!
Ten more years!

Back in the day when you were the media face of SFBC I seem to recall you getting death threats for suggesting the city needed to be more bike friendly. Times sure have changed. I know you've written about it before but I wonder if you'd care to re-post something about the synergy created by bike advocacy organizations and critical mass.